The Violent Nature of Modern Video Gamers

<p>Courtesy of Rockstar</p>

Courtesy of Rockstar

Six months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Republican Assemblyman Sean Kean resurrected a video game ban act in the New Jersey State Assembly. According to Kean, the violent nature of modern video games remains one of the many causes of school shootings. Under his proposed legislature, “M” and “AO+” rated video games would be banned from minors, unless a parent or guardian supervised the purchase. “The first reaction is we need to do gun control,” Kean said, “but we need to look at other components too.”

Criticism against video games is coming from all levels of government and from both sides of the aisle. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., recently named video games as an underlying cause for mass shootings, calling them simulators for violent behavior in an interview with MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough on April 12.

Despite policymaker claims, professional studies suggest a low correlation between video games and violent behavior. A research experiment conducted by Purdue University, for instance, concluded that the effect of video game violence towards aggression “is smaller than the effect of violent television on aggression.” Likewise, former FBI profiler Mary Ellen O’Toole told CBS, “video games do not cause violence,” further commenting that the Bureau “[doesn’t] see [video games] as the cause [of violence],” but rather “sources of fueling ideation that’s already there.”

Compared to cases of real-life violence, O’Toole’s perspective on video games remains particularly accurate. For instance, Julien Barreaux, a French “Counter-Strike” fan, stabbed a fellow player offline after becoming obsessed with a seven month-old in-game kill. Columbine shooter Eric Harris loved the video game “DOOM,” creating several ultraviolent — albeit mediocre gameplay-wise — modifications for the original release. In 2001, Shawn Woolley’s addiction to “EverQuest” created a psychological dependence that would culminate in his suicide. Clearly, video games have been involved in many violent acts throughout the past three decades.

In each of these cases, underlying psychological illness caused these individuals to act violently. Harris, for instance, suffered from antisocial behavior and severe narcissism. Meanwhile, Woolley’s draining obsession with “EverQuest” stemmed from his schizoid personality disorder and severe depression. In each of these cases, severe psychological illness created an opening for troubled gamers to commit tragic crimes. This, however, does not mean that “Counter-Strike” and “EverQuest” inherently create aggressive gamers. Rather, violent games such as “Counter-Strike” further reinforce the fantasies found within a deranged individual, while MMORPGs such as “EverQuest” often create addicts from psychologically vulnerable gamers.

According to a February Harris Poll, older Americans are more likely to claim that there is a correlation to violence and violent video games — while, simultaneously, claiming to know less about video games than their younger counterparts. In fact, individuals aged 48-66 and ages 67+, the two prime age groups for Congressional legislators, demonstrated very limited understanding of video gaming. Only 18 percent of middle-aged gamers claimed to know a lot about the ESRB system, while only 5 percent of senior citizens claimed to be very educated in video game ratings. Simultaneously, these age brackets also strongly claimed there was a link between violence and gaming. Incidentally, America’s elderly legislating body often falls into a demographic that holds little experience with gaming.

When Kean claims video games are “detrimental to [a child’s] well being,” because games “contain extremely inappropriate content for a young viewer’s eyes and ears,” he forgets to realize the prevalence of underlying causes.

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